The Latebirds

Last of the Good Ol' Days

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Helsinki isn't generally considered to be a hotbed of Americana, but the sounds emanating from Last of the Good Ol' Days, the third album by Finnish rockers the Latebirds, certainly seem like they've been soaking in American influences. As it happens, this is the first of the band's albums to get a U.S. release, so for most Americans, it's probably their introduction to the Latebirds, but since forming in 2000, the group has spent plenty of time developing a style that might be best categorized as post-Wilco. They come by it honestly, though: not only have they toured with Wilco, becoming the first Finnish artists to play the Grand Ole Opry stage in the process, but Wilco members guested on the second Latebirds album. Meanwhile, Good Ol' Days is overseen by Wilco producer Jim Scott and includes a contribution from the band's guitar man Nels Cline. The Americana feel of the album is further enhanced by the presence of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, who adds his talents to several cuts, but between the gutsy guitar work of Jussi Jaakonaho, the earthy organ riffs of Matti Pitsinki, and singer Markus Nordenstreng's warm, undeniably Yank-inflected delivery, the Latebirds kick plenty of roots-rocking dust all on their own. They're comfortable leaping back and forth across the dynamic spectrum too, punching out a breathless burst of hard-driving rock & roll on "Kickin' Me" and gracefully unfurling the slow-burning, cinematic title cut with equal aplomb. And if all that wasn't enough, there's a bonus disc of tracks cut at Woodstock with guests including Levon Helm and Kris Kristofferson, So who says Americana has to come from America anyhow?

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